by Daphna Whitmore
A law to allow anyone to change the sex on their birth certificate, no questions asked, is before parliament. This demand arose under the banner of transgender rights. Measures to make life easier for transgender people should be supported, however this law change will have potentially negative unintended consequences for women and girls and this deserves discussion.
Currently trans-identifying people can change their birth certificate with an application through the Family Court with medical evidence of living as the nominated sex and with some safeguards against predatory males who may want to manipulate the process.
Trans ideology has sprung up rapidly and taken hold in surprising quarters. It is problematic because it actually has little focus on the rights of transexuals. Transgender is now a catch-all term of which a significant number are cross-dressing heterosexual males, some of whom identify as lesbians with penises.
The new legislation would remove the requirement of any verification, and is entirely self-identifying. This gives any male the opportunity to claim access to female-only spaces including changing rooms, rape crisis centres, women’s refuges, women’s prisons and women’s sports teams, by simply declaring he is a she.
People who want to discuss the law and its implications are accused of transphobia and bigotry by trans ideologues (most of them not transgender) and told to shut up. These ideologues insist that trans women are women and to suggest otherwise is outrageous. This denial of biological reality along with the conflating of sex and gender underpins transactivist dogma. “Trans women are women” is presented as an article of faith. This is something that transexuals and transvestites, who have been around long before, never did. Now some transexual people fear a backlash, and some are openly critical of the bullying tactics of the trans ideologues who claim to speak for them.
The trans ideologues want to strip the word woman of its meaning and abolish its use in relation to biological sex. They insist it is transphobic to refer to females. There are now uterus-bearers, menstruators, breeders and chest feeders. This sounds like a lunatic fringe but this language is being adopted by the health and education sectors.
Transactivists have used denunciations, censoring, de-platforming, shutting down of meetings, complaining to employers, getting people sacked, and even physical assaults to close down any discussion of their cause.
Writer Derrick Jensen describes how this phenomena “new McCarthyism—complete with blacklisting—has overtaken universities, and discourse in general, and far from opposing it, liberal academics are its most active and ardent perpetrators, demanding a hegemony of thought and discourse that rivals the original.”
Having abandoned science and reason, trans ideologues demand no one question their bizarre ideas. When Speak Up For Women, a group of feminists opposing the self-ID law, organised a meeting in Wellington they had their venue cancelled at the last minute after the hotel staff were confronted by transactivists demanding the booking be revoked. The transactivists took credit for this.
Renee Gerlich, a feminist blogger, has been on the receiving end of the trans ideologues’ intolerance and abuse. She has been subjected to a sustained campaign of censorship and denunciations for years, including losing her job and being hounded out of Wellington. She has had her posters commemorating women’s suffrage torn down. The posters included a tagline “suffragists worked for the female sex – stop rewriting history”. Phantom, the billpost company she hired, refused to run a second series of posters saying they had received complaints alleging Renee was transphobic. They told Renee they were nervous about taking her order and, in the end, refused to handle it.
She was also banned from the Wellington Zinefest in 2016 on the demands of the transactivist organisations InsideOut and RainbowYouth, again because they considered her suffragist posters transphobic. The words “the female sex” was offensive to them.
The website Scoop de-platformed Renee, taking down an article she wrote, without discussion or notification. Renee, as she has campaigned to get the law discussed, has found that “From the New Zealand Herald, to Stuff, Radio New Zealand, The Wireless and The Spinoff, New Zealand’s media refuses to hear from gender critical feminists on the issue of gender identity, while constantly promoting gender self-identification.”
The blogger Martyn Bradbury has noted, “The way Woke Twitter hate Renee Gerlich is something to behold—I’ve never seen such hatred from any other faction in politics.” When his website the Daily Blog ran an announcement from Renee in the newsfeed he received death threats against his daughter.
Important questions are rarely settled without debate and, unfortunately, the mainstream media have been cowardly in submitting to the demands of the transactivists.
Likewise, parliament. So far there is not a single MP who has been willing to speak out in defence of the women’s rights that are being threatened by the self-ID legislation.
The Green Party is refusing to discuss the issues that arise from self-ID. MP Jan Logie made it clear on the current affairs TV programme Q & A the self-ID law was not up for debate. She went so far as to paint transgendered people as so frail that it would be “undermining people’s existence through the exploration of ideas.” Frankly that is insulting to transgender people, and plays to the demands of heterosexual cross-dressing males who now insist they are the most vulnerable victims in society.
Logie asserted her position is “do no harm”. At the same time she has shown she is blind to the needs of women and cavalier about the protection that sex-based spaces give females.
The censoring aspect of the trans movement and their enablers is at a level that is quite something. For instance, organisers of a pro-choice march this month announced “if any known transphobic people attend, especially if they’re carrying transphobic signs or banners, people can point them out to our ushers and they will be asked to leave”.
For a start, people participating in an abortion rights march would likely be turning up to specifically support abortion rights, so why set up a pre-emptive witch hunt? They claimed it was because their march was for bodily autonomy as well as abortion rights. Even to march with a sign “Abortion – a woman’s right to choose” would be to tempt the rage of the Thought Police.
So why the control-freakery? Their use of no-platforming to prevent debate is part of a cultish thinking and the cone of silence spares them having to defend their stance. Departing from material reality makes for ever more incoherence, so it is easier to simply shut down debate.
From their ever-growing lists of genders and pronouns, to their insistence that misgendering is hate speech, trans ideology has the hallmarks of a giant hoax. What is liberating about fixating on pronouns? To deny women have penises is “hate speech”. To “dead name” (such as calling Caitlyn Jenner, Bruce) is hate speech, even if it is in context. Even to use the male name of a paedophile who has conveniently become a new trans woman is hate speech.
For a group that is said to be extremely marginalised the transactivists are very well placed.
As Renee Gerlich points out in an article on censorship and blackmail of gender critical feminists, transactivism has backing from all the political parties and corporate backing from Air New Zealand to ANZ Bank to Fletcher Building and Starbucks. There is also support across government departments such as the Ministry of Health, and even the US embassy contributes funding to Rainbow Youth which focuses on trans and queer youth.
They shut down discussion by stating: “this is not up for debate”. They claim that any discussion will lead to a spate of suicides. This is just what Jan Logie did when she cited high rates of self-harm and suicide among transgender people as reason to stop any discussion.
That should not be a reason to impose silence if it were true, but there is also very little research to back up Logie’s claim. There is no reliable data on transgender adults in New Zealand. The Youth 2000 survey in 2012 was the first and only nationally-based survey to report on the health and well-being of young people who report being transgender. That survey of 8000 students included only 44 males and 52 females identifying as transgender. The sample size is very small, and showed rates of harm similar to gay and lesbian youth. The question itself was very broad and it is therefore debatable whether it accurately represented trans-identifying youth. The wording was, are you “a girl who feels like she should have been a boy, or a boy who feels like he should have been a girl (eg Trans, Queer, Fa’afafine, Whakawahine, Tangata ira Tane, Genderqueer)?”
The authors of Youth2000 acknowledged their sample was too small and the survey too limited to draw conclusions, so it is dishonest of the trans ideologues to continually use the survey as if it was reliable data. More concerning is constantly sending a message that transgender people are self-harming and suicidal. This is not a no-harm approach to youth.
The refusal of Labour, the Greens and NZ First to front up and discuss the self-ID law is anti-democratic and amounts to rule by decree if they succeed. The self-ID amendment was not on the original draft and was slipped in later. Few people knew of it when submissions were open. Contrast that to the debate around other social issues such as abortion reform and the euthanasia bill. None of these are easy subjects to discuss, they carry social stigma and pain, but banning discussion was never suggested.
Herald columnist Rachel Stewart wrote an opinion piece on self-ID legislation and got a storm of abuse. From the self-ID left she got called Anti-semite, Racist, Nazi, Conspiracy theorist KKKer, Suicide-enabler Grandma, Conservative Alt-Righter, Trumpian, Frigid, Clumsy, contrarian Bitch, c**t, slapper, slut, whore. There was a concerted campaign to get her sacked from the Herald. Stewart also received support from many people who appreciated her willingness to open the debate.
Journalists who are sympathetic get targeted and subjected to the same abusive treatment. Stuff journalist Phillip Matthew spoke out in support of Stewart’s column and was harangued and targeted by transactivists who emailed his boss demanding he be sacked.
Trans ideologues have scaled new heights of pedantry. This was illustrated when comedian Michele A’Court opposed Stewart’s column only to be told off by the language police. After tweeting that she was happy to share the changing rooms with trans women and faithfully uttered the mantra “transwomen are women” A’Court was roundly told off by “Binary Smasher”.
Binary Smasher instructed Michele to “Please change this antiquated usage ‘transwomen’ to ‘trans women’. Concatenating the descriptors makes it look like ‘transwomen’ are a different species from ‘ciswomen’. Which is abjectly false. Do better with your language choices. — a trans person.” Then, to be absolutely clear, Binary Smasher went on: “I’ve heard hundreds of trans women among English speaking countries make this exact same point. If you insist on using the term “transwomen”, I expect you to use “ciswomen” even more commonly. If you don’t, fuck you. Seriously. This is Trans 101 stuff. ” And then adding: “Clearly, Michele can speak for herself. Intent is always trumped by impact. If you won’t use ‘ciswoman’ you have no business saying ‘transwoman. Full stop.” And just to drum it in, Binary Smasher went on, “Why is it such a big ask to be precise in our use of language, especially if we write for a living? I’m not asking a rugby player, I’m asking a writer.” To which A’Court tweeted, “I apologise for my mistake and the offence I have caused. Lesson learned.” Binary Smasher put A’Court in her place but pedantic fanatics are never satisfied.
The call out culture is akin to the stocks of old, says Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull who runs the UK group Standing for Women which opposes self-ID. She has suffered personal attacks, and even been interviewed by police under caution after a complaint for tweets criticising Mermaids (a gender diverse support organisation) for promoting paediatric transition. When she sponsored billboards saying “Women – noun, adult female”, a complaint from an individual prompted the council to take them down.
Singer Alison Moyet has been attacked for refusing to use the term cis woman. She said “I defend everyone’s right to have the pronoun that they choose and will honour it”, and went on to say and “I do not choose Cis for mine”. Moyet explained her position: “It took women like me long enough to own the title ‘woman’ in the first place. It’s a long enough word for me.”
Jenni Murray, who hosts the BBC Women’s Hour, has been hounded from speaking engagements for an article she wrote in 2017 in which she said “Be trans, be proud — but don’t call yourself a ‘real woman’.”
University student organisations have been among the most aggressive, authoritarian and censoring.
Rosa Freedman, Professor of Law at the University of Reading, has been targeted by transactivists for opposing self-ID. She has had urine poured on her office door, had transactivists calling for her to be sacked and been yelled at before a lecture by a man telling her that she was a transphobic Nazi who should get raped. Philosophy professor Kathleen Stocks at the University of Sussex has faced months of harassment for publicly disputing trans women are women. Other academics who are against self-ID are afraid to talk in a climate of fear, harassment, bomb threats, and email hacks.
The censoring environment is anti-science and is ultimately harmful for transgender people. A UK psychotherapist, James Caspian, who spent 10 years working in a gender clinic and supported hundreds transitioning had his research on detransitioners stopped by Bath Spar University. The university said they could not continue with that research “because the research might attract on social media, that would be criticism of the university and further more it is better not to offend people”.
Transactivists have targeted women’s groups and used standover tactics. When a group in Wales met to discuss self-ID they found the hotel had cancelled the booking. In 2017 in Bristol a women’s group had their venue cancelled after it received threats from transactivists, and they had to meet in a secret location. The same women’s group had masked activists block feminist campaigner Julie Bindel from entering a venue where she was due to speak against self-ID legislation. A woman was assaulted by transactivists outside the venue.
Twitter, Facebook and WordPress are also silencing gender critical voices. Twitter has prohibited misgendering and deadnaming, so referring to Bruce Jenner, winner of the Olympic gold medal in the men’s decathlon, is not allowed. Evidently it was the woman Caitlyn Jenner who won in 1976.
Canadian feminist Meghan Murphy has been permanently banned from Twitter for saying “men aren’t women” and for asking: “What is the difference between a man and a trans woman?” Twitter banned her for “violating our rules against hateful conduct” and then deleted her tweets.
To debate whether self-declared women are the same as women and should be treated identically is shouted down as transphobic. This is denying the existence of transgender people.
This censorship is harmful. It allows biology, history, science and medicine to be defined and limited by political activists. With the silencing there is also herding and groupthink online.
There needs to be the opportunity to discuss issues like the medical transitioning of children. Further, discussions need to be held in a climate where it is ok to disagree. The censorship and no-platforming leaves people in ignorance. It betrays the trans ideology’s lack of coherence and its lack of basis in reality. They threaten and abuse those who simply raise concerns because their argument is based on a falsehood that it is possible to change sex.
The accusations of transphobia are aimed at people who are not transphobes and are the very people who have fought for workers’, women’s and gay rights. Trans ideologues are entitled to their views, but to demand that everyone adhere to their outlook is autocratic and, in the long run, not tenable.
This article has just touched on a few examples of transactivist intolerance. For more examples:
Peak trans challenges transactivism from a feminist perspective.
Terf is a slur has hundreds of examples of misogynist abuse on Twitter.
Get the L Out has examples of transactivists’ intolerance towards lesbians
Banned by trans has a lot of evidence of the transactivists’ censoring criticism.
Mumsnet a UK based website with good background material.